Behold, at long last: The Perfect Margarita recipe

It's been said that some men live lives of quiet desperation. Others perk things up by taking on the quests and missions drearily known in the self-help world as "goals." These are the people who keep on going, cheerfully, through the traffic jams and file corruptions of life by keeping their chins up, their eyes on the prize, and their upper lips stiff as a frat boy on Saturday night.

Among these few, these happy few, my friends M.-L. and P. must be counted, and their deeds sung. They are so modest about their accomplishments, however, that they refuse to have their names published, claiming that their discovery is not theirs, but belongs to The People.

Whatever. Together, M.-L. and P.--both have doctorates (in English)--man the Northwest Tucson Margarita Research Kitchen. Working weekends and nights through more than a year of tireless inquiry, they have developed and codified a recipe for The Perfect Margarita. I am happy to say that the formula lies before me at this moment, scrawled on a brie-stained cocktail napkin acquired at M.-L.'s legendary Epiphany Party.

The search for the Perfect Margarita has long occupied many Southern Arizonans, but until now, it, like The Perfect Sonoran Hot Dog or The Perfect Fish Taco, has remained a rumor, a dream--glimpsed and then gone. Most local venues' versions of the drink are so far from the ideal as to be cruel parodies: The majority of so-called margaritas served around here consist of margarita mix, salt and little square chunks of machine ice that could have been in the same room as a tequila bottle. You might as well drink fruit punch--in fact, you are drinking fruit punch. My husband and I split a large pitcher of quasi-margaritas the other night at an otherwise excellent local restaurant, and not only were we good to drive after emptying it; we were ready to ace the AIMS test. The only harmful substances we consumed were artificial color and flavoring, loads of sugar and salt--come to think of it, straight tequila would have probably been healthier.

There are several problems with the tequila-free restaurant margarita. First, there is the magnitude of the rip-off. If the house has the nerve to charge $6, say, for one of these, it's got to be making $5.75 on every glass. Then there's the lack of burn and buzz. Yes, to the despair of the entire health community, not to mention the Southern Baptist Convention, AA and other puritans everywhere, those of us who like to drink alcohol like the feeling that drinking alcohol gives us. You call it impairment; we call it happiness.

Third, a margarita needs tequila for flavor. Tequila tastes good, very good, and the rest of the drink is built around that fact. Without the juice, you've got nothing.

Enough kvetching. Courtesy of the Margarita Test Kitchen, I present to you--

The Perfect Margarita

  • Equipment: Cocktail shaker, large heavy spoon
  • Ingredients: Bag ice, salt, a bag of limes, Triple Sec, good tequila, baker's sugar (optional)
  • Proportions: 1/3 tequila, 1/3 Triple Sec, 1/3 fresh lime juice (no other)
  1. 1. Squeeze limes no earlier than six hours before the party. Cover juice and refrigerate.
  2. 2. Crack ice in your hand (using the heavy spoon) to fill the shaker halfway, or until palm is too painful to continue.
  3. 3. Add other ingredients, including a teaspoon or two of baker's sugar if your friends are big babies.
  4. 4. Stir well to completely dissolve sugar.
  5. 5. Shake vigorously. Pour into pre-salted or plain glasses and serve.
Notes: Follow directions exactly for best results! Quality of ingredients is critical! The ice must be cracked for maximum frostiness and jingly swirling in glass. The tequila must be of José Cuervo Gold quality or better. You may wish to juggle proportions slightly, very slightly, depending on the tartness of lime juice, but do not increase Triple Sec. If you need added sweetness, use baker's sugar, as noted above.

That's all there is to it. M.-L. and P. admit that they were somewhat chagrinned when the long-sought formula turned out to be so simple.

"After months of methodical experimentation and rigorous evaluation, I have to say that it was a bit of a let-down," said P., who usually produces the final product.

Were they ever discouraged in their long, unsung quest, mixing and mixing like Pierre and Marie Curie with their cauldron of pitchblende?

"Oh, no," said M.-L. "We rejoiced in our mistakes--to the point that we thought our health might be in danger."

And what's next for this dauntless team?

"The Perfect Bloody Mary," said M.-L. "Fortunately, we have a long way to go."

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